The federal government is working with Alberta’s government to provide $3 million in funding over four years to the province’s 211 crisis helpline to tackle the growing problem of gender-based violence.
The funds will allow 211 to better support those experiencing abuse, Marci Ien – the federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Women and Gender Equality Canada – said at a news conference in Edmonton on Friday morning.
“It’s important that when someone needs help, there’s someone who can listen on the other end of a line or a text,” Ien said.
“It takes a physical, psychological and economic toll on survivors, children and anyone who supports them. True and lasting gender equality is only possible when women, girls and gender-diverse people are safe.”
The announcement comes as many groups working to address gender-based violence report a continued rise in the severity of incidents since the start of the pandemic, with demand for support high in Alberta and across the country.
“In Alberta, the boom continues as several crisis hotlines reported a 50 percent or more increase in calls from 2021 to 2022,” Ien said.
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The federal government is working with other provinces and territories on similar agreements, she said.
In Alberta, 211 is available 24-7 by phone, text or chat, and works to connect people in need with effective, timely and appropriate information and referrals to community resources, including shelters, support groups, legal support, counseling or other help.
The additional funding is expected to improve the coordination of services for survivors of gender-based violence.
Tanya Fir, Alberta’s parliamentary secretary for the Status of Women, said at the news conference that every person experiencing gender-based violence should have immediate access to support and comprehensive care.
“(Gender-based violence) can happen anytime and anywhere. It can happen suddenly or be part of a relationship that develops over time. Whether it happens in public, private or even in your own home, survivors deserve support, no matter where in the province they live,” said Fir.
“Any situation where someone is in danger is not the time to be trying to figure out how to get help or who to call. . . . When a person is in crisis, getting help shouldn’t be difficult, confusing or time-consuming.”
Rob Yager, the president and CEO of United Way’s Alberta Capital Region, said the investment in 211 allows the organization to better research the complex network of supports available to those experiencing abuse.
“Navigating the social sector is hard, but even harder when you’re in crisis,” Yager said. “This work and this funding will save lives. This will help break the cycle of violence. It will help survivors heal, rebuild and thrive.”
Anyone experiencing gender-based violence can call, text or chat with 211 Alberta or contact the Calgary Distress Center at 403-266-4357.